Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 6 December 2020

Irfan Pathan backs Indian cricket board to lead the way out of financial crisis caused by coronavirus pandemic

Retired all-rounder believes Indian Premier League will be held this year

Irfan Pathan says Indian cricket is sturdy enough to survive the economic downturn. AFP
Irfan Pathan says Indian cricket is sturdy enough to survive the economic downturn. AFP

Cricket, like most entities in the world, is in a precarious financial position. Revenue streams have dried up with no clarity about when the next dollar will come in.

With so much despair all around, former all-rounder Irfan Pathan believes the Indian cricket board can lead the way out of coronavirus-enforced financial turmoil.

Cricket Australia, one of three financially robust boards in world cricket along with India and England, is facing a massive revenue shortfall, having already announced deep budget cuts with the possibility of further loss of jobs. The situation is grim at boards who have nowhere near that amount of money.

The Indian cricket board is expected to come out of the current crisis with the least amount of damage because of the unending appetite of Indian cricket fans and sponsors.

And that is why Pathan believes the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will remain on its feet and help others who will certainly struggle to stay afloat.

"Indian cricket is different because we have sponsorship and the BCCI is a big body. So Indian cricket won't suffer that much losses. Other boards stand to loose a lot because revenue comes from sponsorship and playing home matches," Pathan told The National.

"I am sure all the boards will come together and try to find a solution. And the BCCI is a body that will look to help out other boards. They have done that in the past and they will do so in the future as well."

It's true. The BCCI had supported Afghanistan cricket by providing them a 'home' base in India because of the security situation in their country. But this is going to be far bigger than one act of concession or compassion.

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Top earners in IPL

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The livelihoods of hundreds of thousands depend on cricket matches. While we just see the cricketers, support staff and in-stadia personnel on the screen, there are many more who work behind the scenes to make the whole thing tick.

Scorers, ground staff, caterers, small vendors and many like them depend heavily on the cricket juggernaut rolling on. In a country like India, it is next to impossible to estimate how many depend on cricket. Pathan knows it all too well.

"Those associated with the game are badly affected. Take the example of the person who sends throw-downs during training. Then there are scorers, coaches at lower levels. There are players who take up coaching at various levels. It does not pay as much but it strengthens their CV. Many people like them are getting hurt," the Baroda all-rounder said.

"And these are the people we see in cricket. There are so many we don’t even see or know about. I was reading about a cobbler in Chennai for whom the IPL [Indian Premier League] was a major part of livelihood. He would help the Chennai Super Kings, local teams. Now he is struggling to survive."

The way forward, according to Pathan, is to get the one guaranteed money-making enterprise in cricket up and running – the IPL.

The T20 league remains suspended and the fate of the tournament will be known this week when the International Cricket Council meets to decide the possible rescheduling of T20 World Cup in Australia later in the year, which should free-up space in the calendar for the league.

Pathan said the IPL should be held this year in some form or the other, because it's not just a cricket product but an enterprise.

"The only way forward is to stay calm and hopefully the IPL will happen. I am certain the IPL will happen some time this year so we can get the ball rolling.

"People talk about money in IPL and how it is a big business. Why are people talking about starting other businesses? If you are worried about small shops and big companies, why are you not talking about IPL in the same way? It is the livelihood of many people. Not just hundreds but many thousands are involved directly or indirectly with the league," the 35-year-old said.

"It is the best cricket league and one of the biggest sporting events in the world. People follow it and get work out of it. I am sure it will happen, as long as it does not affect people’s health."

Cricket after coronavirus

As and when cricket resumes, match conditions are expected to be markedly different with constant sanitisation, social distancing, limited number of people on the ground, and a ban on spitting and applying saliva on the ball among the likely regulations.

The ICC has recommended applying sweat to shine the ball, but Pathan believes the best way to ensure an even contest is to have some life in the pitch for the bowlers.

"There are a few options. If you have quarantined players before a match and tested them, then no need to sanitise the ball and other equipment all the time. But there might be some players who are asymptomatic. In that case a spit ban is fair enough," the Baroda native said.

"But if you start to sanitise every time, you will prolong the game. A three-hour T20 game will go for five hours.

"Ultimately, what you need is good pitches for bowlers to bowl. Be it Test, ODI or T20 cricket, there should be something for the bowlers."

Updated: June 12, 2020 10:01 AM

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